Take up the challenge and explore the great outdoors this winter.
Finally, winter has arrived in all its low humidity and hurricane-free glory. With much of the country grappling with freezing temperatures and snow-capped streets, now is the perfect time of year for Floridians to get out and get in shape by discovering our diverse landscape. Hillsborough County alone is home to over 60 conservation parks and nature reserves with over 300 miles of marked hiking trails, and the Parks and Recreation Department challenges you to get a taste of what the area has to offer during the Hillsborough County hike in 2022. Feast.
How it works
The parks service has compiled a list of 22 locations divided into the following categories:
- Neighborhood parks and leisure centers, consisting of short paved paths with water and facilities.
- Conservation Parks, which are home to well-maintained mid-range trails and trails.
- Nature reserves, which have no facilities and are subject to daily weather conditions.
- State Parks, which offer well-maintained facilities and a variety of trail options.
You only need to hike at least eight of these trails by March 31, 2022 to earn your choice of a commemorative medallion or an official hiking badge.
Start by visiting hcflgov.net/hikingspree. From there, you can register to participate and download a list of eligible trails. The trail list includes the county park, state park, neighborhood or reserve where the trail is located, how many kilometers the trail has traveled, class of trail (A-All Purpose, B-Basic or C-Primitive), the rating (1-Easy, 3-Moderate, 3-Strenous), as well as a section to track your hiking progress.
While the 2022 hike encourages hikers to explore a variety of different trails, you are allowed to repeat any trail twice for one credit, as long as those hikes are on different dates.
Who can participate
Anyone and everyone. There are no age or physical restrictions, and with a wide range of trails to choose from (including several that are accessible), it’s easy to find the right one for any level of hiking. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce young children to the joys of hiking and the great outdoors.
The hikes can be done alone, with family and friends or as part of a special interest group. Just be sure to follow the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing with your group.
Participation is not limited to residents of Hillsborough County, so if you have family or friends in town for a visit, be sure to include them.
What to bring
No matter what level of hike you plan on doing, there are a few essentials you should always have on hand: sturdy walking shoes, water, and sunscreen. Bug spray and a hat are also advisable, and a walking stick can be useful for more difficult trails.
Many of the designated trails are located in parks that charge a nominal entrance fee, so you will need to have cash on hand to cover the costs, if applicable. Consider bringing your camera or binoculars to get a better view of the wildlife you encounter (and rest assured, you will see some wildlife).
How to claim your reward
To receive your medallion or badge, simply complete the online hiking form on hcflgov.formstack.com/forms/hikingspree or mail your completed hiking trail form to the Bell Creek administrative offices, attention: Hiking Spree, 10940 McMullen Road, Riverview, FL 33569. You can also drop off your completed form at the Westchase Recreation Center.
This winter, when the temperatures are mild and the sun is shining, why not mark a trail or two off your list. Whether you prefer a relaxed stroll over a stroll or a more challenging hike along a primitive trail, the Hillsborough County 2022 Hike is the perfect way to make the most of this glorious time of year.
By Karen Anneau